With Luck More Seasonable
by Joanna Brichetto
A seedling hangs from mortar halfway up the concrete wall. It’s a shock to see tender green against a sheet of gray, what with the yard full of dead hackberry leaves. We’re in the second week of Nashville winter, but a run of warm days has fooled it. A saved seed sprouts. Someone’s cache cashes in. Chickadee? White-breasted nuthatch maybe, or downy woodpecker? They all use hidey holes.
I know the baby plant is black oil sunflower from the birdfeeder, “put by” for cold days coming. I recognize the fleshy cotyledons—the seed leaves. The two true leaves above those are already more than four centimeters long, which bumps the plant to V2 status on the scale used by commercial growers. Vegetative 2 is fine for spring or summer, but not for now.
No Reproductive stages for you, my dear. Maybe two more leaves (Vegetative 4) while the weather holds. But your clean green is too late, or way too early. Blame it on El Niño, or my non-hybrid car.
Next frost, you’re a goner.
I’ll keep an eye on the forecast so I can give something, anything, time to eat it. Say, an insect that ought to be dead or underground by now, or a chipmunk surprised by salad.
But when a cold night comes and you are still here, still a downy slip elbowing to the sun from your north-facing wall, cheated by a calendar no longer trusted, I can’t let you go to waste. I will save you.
I will eat you myself.
Not as garnish to grocery greens in the kitchen, but here, by the wall, one leaf at a time. I will pull you by the roots, the better to clear the niche for the next seed which, with luck more seasonable, will stay shut and feed the bird that hides it.
About Joanna Brichetto
Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and educator in Nashville, where she writes the urban nature blog Look Around: Nearby Nature. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in storySouth, The Ilanot Review, November Bees, Jewish Literary Journal, Vine Leaves Literary Journal and The Fourth River.